"Eat Right" message for National Nutrition Month
Any time is a good time to learn to eat right and make the choices you need to stay healthy. But during National Nutrition Month this March, dietitians across Oklahoma are encouraging citizens to make a special effort to improve their overall nutrition.
"Most of us will have to put some effort into trying to eat healthier," commented LaDonna Dunlop, a Registered Dietitian and the Family and Consumer Sciences Educator for the Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension Service. "Sometimes it seems like we're surrounded on all sides by fast, convenient foods that don't always fit into a healthy diet."
One of the best things Oklahomans can do for their diets, Dunlop pointed out, is to increase the amount of nutrient-rich foods they eat while they decrease the number of "empty calories."
"Usually foods high in fats and sugars don't have a lot of vitamins, minerals or other nutrients," Dunlop said. "That's why these empty calorie foods should be limited."
Instead, people should lean more towards increasing the number of fruits and vegetables in their diets.
"Very few Oklahomans get the number of fruits and vegetables they need every day," she said. "On the average, we need about two and a half cups or more of vegetables daily and two cups or more of fruits."
Most fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber and are low in calories, unhealthy fats and processed sugars, Dunlop said.
"We're always looking for ways to improve ourselves, to improve how we feel and how we look," Dunlop explained. "Eating a healthy diet is probably the best thing people can do for themselves."
In general, Dunlop gives this advice to people who are trying to eat right:
--Start with planning. Planning meals and snacks can help you eliminate eating expensive, convenient foods. It might take a little more time but, by preparing meals and wrapping up healthy snacks to take with you, you can not only eat healthier, but save money on food as well.
--Look at portion sizes. We really need much smaller portions of foods than most of us think. This is especially true for proteins. Three ounces of chicken is about the size of a deck of cards. So, when you're buying meat for your family, don't overbuy. Remember, you need to eat the proper amount of fiber, fruits, vegetables and milk products--not just protein.
--Think about meatless meals. Soups, salads, legumes, or cheeses are all possible main entrees that can take the place of meat.
--Stock your refrigerator and pantry with healthier foods. When people are hungry, they tend to eat what's closest to hand. So make certain you have healthy options when you need a quick snack or meal.
--Buy in season. Fresh fruits and vegetables can go a long ways towards helping you eat healthier and helping save you money. Fruits and vegetables in season usually cost less and taste better.
--Try to stay active. In addition to eating right, you can also improve your health by exercising. Remember that every little bit helps, and every little bit helps burn calories and improve your metabolism.